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The Report by Kanishkaa Balachandran
July 25, 2012
New Zealand 232 for 4 (Guptill 97, Narine 3-73) v West Indies
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It turned out to be a bittersweet first day in Antigua for New Zealand, for though they fought hard they gifted away four wickets. Martin Guptill undid nearly three sessions of hard work with an impetuous slog that denied him a third Test century. West Indies bowled well in spells and could have had better results had their bowling been backed by better fielding. Sunil Narine looked his potent self late in the day to lift home spirits after they looked a touch deflated following a wicketless morning session.
New Zealand needed a solid batting effort after their failures in the ODIs and Guptill led from the top of the order, nearly lasting the entire the day. An underachieving Test batsman, Guptill had shunned the Indian Premier League to sharpen his long-format skills with Derbyshire. He also needed to improve his record against better attacks - his two centuries were against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The standout features today were his patience and how dearly he valued his wicket.
New Zealand were given a solid start by their openers Daniel Flynn and Guptill after Ross Taylor had won the toss. The new ball swung and beat the bat, and some deliveries landed close to the batsmen's toes. Yet, it wasn't enough to give West Indies a breakthrough in the morning. The seamers didn't pitch the ball up enough to exploit the movement on offer and the batsmen were allowed to leave too many deliveries outside off stump. Roach tried spearing in the yorker, but the openers were alert and kept those deliveries out. Only in the tenth over did New Zealand score their first boundary: Flynn driving a half volley from Darren Sammy through extra cover. At times, Roach bowled from wide of the crease to direct the ball at the body, but when he strayed too straight Guptill flicked to the boundary. When Roach was too full on middle stump, Guptill drove down the ground.
New Zealand were 60 for 0 when Sammy brought on Narine in the 21st over. Guptill's straight six showed New Zealand weren't too intimidated by that bowling change. New Zealand handled Narine fairly well, until the shadows lengthened.
After lunch, Guptill batted responsibly, wearing the bowlers down by occupying the crease. Flynn capitalised each time Narine pitched short but when he attempted another cut, the top edge because of the extra bounce was caught point, ending the opening stand on 97.
Guptill was a little circumspect when Ravi Rampaul began to reverse swing the ball. He eased those nerves with two fluent boundaries through the off side when Rampaul pitched too full. Guptill got to his fifty with a square drive off Roach, but against Narine, he was more watchful. Narine's round the wicket line, backed up by three men around the bat, kept Guptill in check, but New Zealand didn't have to worry about him getting bogged down, because Brendon McCullum was at the other end.
McCullum played his natural game, taking on Narine by pulling a short delivery over square leg, and later playing an audacious reverse sweep. He survived an lbw shout from Roach that was reviewed, but the referral was cancelled because the bowler had overstepped. In that same over, however, McCullum spooned the ball low to Narsingh Deonarine at mid-off, giving West Indies their second wicket.
Taylor and Guptill added 90 for the third wicket, with Taylor particularly harsh on anything wide of off stump. He was not entirely at ease against Narine, though. Narine got the old ball to turn and bounce and Taylor had issues while trying to defend with soft hands, with fielders waiting for the bat-pad catch. He fell to a poor shot, trying to pull Narine and tamely playing on.
At 223 for 3, New Zealand still had the upper hand and Guptill was one hit away from a century. The nervous 90s, though, got the better of him. He tried to repeat the shot that fetched him his only six, off Narine, but the top edge went only as far as mid-on. Time slowed as Guptill squatted, trying to comprehend what he had done. West Indies had found an opening late in the day. It was now up to the New Zealand lower order to start afresh.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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